Cubs’ Clint Frazier: Hard to understand ‘where it went wrong’ with Yankees

BALTIMORE – Returning to New York brings mixed emotions for Cubs outfielder Clint Frazier. On the one hand, he’s heading back to the site where his major-league career began. He and his fiancee plan on wedding band shopping while in town because it’s also where he proposed.

On the other hand, when the Cubs kick off a three-game series at Yankee Stadium this weekend, Frazier is set to face the team that released him less than seven months ago, his relationship with the organization marked by mistrust by the end of his Yankees tenure.

“It’ll be good to see some of my former teammates,” Frazier said in a conversation with the Sun-Times. “They’re doing great over there. So, I’m excited to see them and catch up with them.”

Later he added: “A lot of it is hard to really look at and understand where it went wrong at times.”

The Cubs signed Frazier in December, on the eve of the lockout.

“I think it’s always nice to have a fresh start, fresh face,” Cubs manager David Ross said in the spring. “Seems like he’s in a great place, he’s in a great mood, working on a lot of things.”

Frazier agreed with the value of a change of scenery.

His Cubs tenure so far hasn’t gone quite as planned. After carrying a hot bat through much of spring training, Frazier had a slow start to the regular season. Then, an appendectomy landed him on the injured list for over a month .

“I think everyone’s excited to see what he can do,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said when the Cubs activated Frazier from the IL a couple weeks ago.

Frazier, getting inconsistent playing time as the right-handed hitter in a right-field platoon since returning, found his rhythm in a home stand against division rivals Milwaukee and St. Louis, going 5-for-15 with five walks.

“I’ve been feeling really good at the plate,” he said. “I’m really hoping I can get some more at-bats here soon. Because I want to play.”

The Cubs outfield picture, however, could get more crowded in the coming days with right fielder Seiya Suzuki’s return possible in the Yankees series.

If there’s one thing Frazier carried with him from his Yankees tenure to now, he said, it’s patience.

“I didn’t play super consistently a lot in New York,” he said. “And it’s kind of trending that way here, where I’m having to be ready in the high-leverage situations in the eighth inning, pinch hitting off guys who are throwing 1,000 miles per hour.”

Frazier never reached the 70-game mark in a season with the Yankees. And though he debuted in July 2017, he’s still arbitration-eligible for the next two years.

In Frazier’s last season with the organization, the Yankees placed him on the IL in July with what they initially called vertigo, a diagnosis Frazier disputes and the team later described as a possible vision issue.

Frazier now says he believes he was battling another concussion – Frazier missed most of the 2018 season with lingering concussion symptoms – which he tried to play through, deciding not to disclose his suspicion to the Yankees for fear it wouldn’t be taken seriously.

Frazier, who was batting .186 in 66 games last year, finished the season on the 60-day IL. The Yankees released him in November.

“I like it here,” he said of the Cubs organization. “Certainly don’t miss some of the things over there. And I’m really enjoying the way that this clubhouse has maneuvered. It seems like there’s a lot of guys in here that are just accepting of everyone. And it’s been really good for me.”

He compares the experience of playing for the Yankees to playing for the White House.

“And you had to be a cookie-cutter version to be on that team” he said. “If not, then you were like a really bad distraction, it seemed like. So, I don’t miss being told how I had to look for the last five years.”

No longer under the Yankees’ infamous facial hair policy, Frazier has grown a short-cropped beard and wears a nose ring. It’s his own version of a fresh face.

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